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Project Management Plan Mind Mapping, Techniques & Brainstorming

Updated on September 4, 2011

For huge projects, the project management plan is a team effort. Use mind maps and other techniques for more efficient brainstorming and transform ideas better into project objects.

This way, project teams can quickly come up–not with a risky template that lacks real world scenarios but with a project management plan that fits specified standards and one that is also accurate and reliable according to the realities of the project.

Many heads are better than one. A mind map tool helps in better team planning. It also gathers and communicates complex ideas in a simple manner that people will easily understand and remember. Remarkably, mind mapping techniques can serve as part of a project manager's repertoire in producing a winning project management plan.

After all, the things that make humans superior to other species are:

  • Team work to build complex projects like skyscrapers or offshore oil rigs;
  • Capability to make and use tools; and
  • Effective and varied communication abilities like persuading through equations or representing highly complex ideas in diagrams.

What is a Winning Project Management Plan?

A winning project management plan has the following characteristics:

  1. It leads to a proper project closure, closeout or conclusion instead of termination due to breach of contract or unsatisfactory execution of the project.
  2. It delivers the benefits or solutions that the project is supposed to address or resolve for the project owner.
  3. It generates the best possible profits for the project company.
  4. The project encounters little or no objections from those it affects.
  5. All project staff and stakeholders, or at least the majority, are happy with the results of the project.

These 5 characteristics are best achieved with clear communications and efficient teams. Naturally, a project manager who is better equipped to produce a winning project management plan is like a pianist with ten complete fingers. As the saying goes, "It is easier to play the piano with ten fingers than with one."

What is a Mind Map Tool?

A mind map is a tool initially intended for memory or learning enhancement. Through time, its usage has expanded to include effective communications and as a magnet for creativity.

It has the following main elements:

  1. It is a radial diagram.
  2. Key ideas can expand through drill-out branches.
  3. Users can filter out the other expanded ideas to focus on one.
  4. Users can shift from a detailed view to a general view of the main idea.

Sample radial diagram using the IEEE software project management plan standard.
Sample radial diagram using the IEEE software project management plan standard.
Drill-out branches using the IEEE software project management plan format.
Drill-out branches using the IEEE software project management plan format.
One idea focus as the creation of the project management plan progresses.
One idea focus as the creation of the project management plan progresses.

Project Management Plan Techniques

Some key skills of a project manager are:

  • Systems thinking or good organization of ideas;
  • Clear communications with project teams and stakeholders; and
  • Effective delegation, work monitoring, and integration of the different tasks to complete a project.

These key skills translate into the following traditional project management techniques:

  • Work breakdown structure and Gantt chart creation;
  • Writing and presentation of project concepts; and
  • Work packages management.

Since a project management plan is a sub-project in its own right, a project manager should always consider the above techniques plus mind maps to produce this very important document.

Good organization of ideas ensures full use of each and every project resources leading to the efficient completion of the project. Clear communications enable teams to work and gel seamlessly. Effective work delegation, monitoring, and integration result in a proper work balance for all project staff. Thus, project managers can eliminate over- and under-utilization of both human and physical resources.

How to Brainstorm on the Project Management Plan

Brainstorming with many people taps on the presentation and communication skills of a project manager. Presenting a wall of text is a no-no because audience participation tends to die down with poor presentation.

The basic aims of a project manager in brainstorming are to involve as many key people as possible, get the best inputs from them, and get them to commit on the project.

Project managers can convey and gather ideas in the following manner:

  • linear
  • triangular
  • radial

Project managers can conduct linear, triangular and/or radial presentations electronically or through face-to-face meetings. With team planning tools, electronic brainstorming encourages more individual inputs while face-to-face brainstorming enhances team cohesion.

Brainstorming via Diagrams

Linear Presentation

Gantt charts present project objects in a horizontal line to show schedules. Project teams and stakeholders get a quick overview of where and when the project management plan is heading at a certain point in time.

It also rapidly shows where the backlog is so project companies can deliver the project management plan on time for the project bid or on the kick off meeting for quicker cash collection of the project mobilization fund.

Other linear form presentations are:

  • Network Diagrams
  • Process Models
  • Flow Charts

For the purpose of creating the project management plan, the above 3 diagrams are overkill although these might appear in the final document.

Notably, horizontal and vertical linear views present sequences well and how one task relates to another but may be poor choices for emphasizing multiple tasks and how one task relates to the whole project.

Triangular Presentation

The WBS is easier understood when presented in an inverted tree node format. It gives a short summary on the work involved to complete the entire project.

Presenting a graphical WBS to the project teams, raising questions on how would a team efficiently complete a particular work package, getting team inputs on the tasks involved, asking who wants to take on the tasks in the work package and so on ensure that project risks are properly managed.

A big project risk is overestimating the project teams' capability or the project company's physical and financial resources in undertaking ideal scenarios. Project management plan templates have a tendency to dumb down project managers' common sense in addressing these realities thus leading to project contract compliance issues.

As far as project teams are concerned, project teams are only as strong as their weakest link. If the project company cannot hire on board a person with a particular skill set, then it is best to limit the project scope in that area and find ways to compensate in other areas.

If the project company does not have a required equipment for a project, then it makes sense to note this inadequacy early on so company executives can scout for a project partner who has the equipment or find financiers to buy the equipment. This way, project managers address the gap in the project requirements before the project company even submits the project management plan to the project owner.

Radial Presentation

A mind map is a radial representation of ideas that can show project objects for brainstorming. It allows participants in the discussion or planning to center on a key idea and relate the key components to the whole.

A mind map stimulates group inputs on any idea without the limiting influence of hierarchy or priorities. Hence, mind maps provide more room for creativity and integration of ideas that will address the whole.

How to Mind Map for Project Management Plans

Some project managers will find it easier to set the WBS when mind mapping comes first. To get the realistic project management plan creation up and running, these steps might come in handy:

  1. Determine the standard format required in the RFP. If the format is not mentioned, err on the safe side and follow the IEEE standard. The IEEE standard is better structured and better defined than the PMI standard.
  2. Define the project management plan outline in the mind map.
  3. Ask individual inputs from the key project team members.
  4. Discuss all inputs as a group.
  5. Set the WBS and assign each deliverable's further decomposition into work packages.
  6. Monitor the progress of the creation of the project management plan.


Team planning is essential in the creation and production of the project management plan. Mind maps along with other techniques can be effective to ensure minimal project risks so that the project is completed on time and within the budget.


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    • Pmresource profile image

      Pmresource 5 years ago

      Hi Sid.

      For one person, you might want to check the list of free mind mapping software, here:

      Just go for the ones with Wikipedia articles. Those went through an Articles for Deletion process so you can be sure you'll have crucial technical support when you need it.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      PMResource - thank you for an interesting article. Most people think that project management is a purely logical process that involves defining tasks, putting them on a calendar, and getting them done. You point out that creativity and teamwork - empowered by a mind-mapping tool - is a part of project management excellence. You're right on target.

      I was wondering if you know of a free or inexpensive mind-mapping tool for one person to use. I have a whole bunch of ideas I'd like to get out of my head and into diagrams!

    • Pmresource profile image

      Pmresource 5 years ago

      Hi Michael. Glad that you use mind maps for your projects.

    • Michael VO profile image

      Michael VO 5 years ago from Warrenton Missouri

      It was great to see you mention mind-mapping, it is a great tool for organizing thoughts, plans, you name it. I used mind mapping to create a web-based entry into a project management system, The PM system was based on the principles of Theory of Constraints. Thanks for your hub.